One of the most popular nuts used in baking, walnuts have a slightly bitter flavour which complements sweet recipes perfectly, they also enhance recipes containing spices such as cinnamon, ginger or mixed spice. They have a slightly softer texture than most nuts which makes them easy to either chop or break into pieces.
Walnuts are available in several forms - whole nuts in the shell, shelled pieces, halves or whole nuts and ground. Walnut pieces are perfect for including in recipes and are cheaper than halved or whole nuts.
To remove nuts from shells you will need a good pair of nut crackers. Squeeze the shell gently until it just splits and you can extract the nut - if you use too much pressure you will end up damaging the whole nut. Pecan nuts can be used in place of walnuts.
Uses: Halves and pieces can be used in puddings, cakes and biscuits and are particularly popular in those containing coffee, chocolate or dried fruits. Whole walnuts can be used to decorate cakes and gateaux. Ground walnuts can be used to enrich pastry or cake mixtures.
Walnuts can also be used in savoury recipes such as Waldorf salad (the classic American recipe containing chopped apples, celery, walnuts and raisins in a mayonnaise based dressing), breads and pasta sauces. Pesto made with walnuts instead of the traditional ingredient of pine nuts makes a delicious pasta sauce.
To prepare: Like all nuts walnuts can be toasted to enhance their flavour - lay a single layer of nuts (whole or pieces) on a baking sheet and grill or bake in a hot oven, turning occasionally, until they just start to brown. The walnuts will brown in 5-10 minutes - do watch them carefully or they will burn.
To store: Keep walnuts in a cool, dry cupboard and once opened store in an airtight container.
Pickled walnuts: These are made from young, green walnuts which can be eaten whole although they have a bitter taste. The walnuts are pickled in vinegar.
To use: Serve pickled walnuts with a selection of cold meats, cheeses and breads.